Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jan 14

Butterflies of Pulau Ubin Part 2
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Butterflies Galore! : Lime Butterfly
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Indonesia: Monkey Hordes Threaten Farmers’ Livelihoods

Ari Susanto Jakarta Globe 23 Jan 14;

Klaten. Dozens of monkeys have descended the slopes of Mount Merapi in Central Java to ransack fields for food in the district of Klaten, leaving farmers facing the prospect of a failed crop.

Hordes of monkeys rushed farms in the Kali Woro area of Klaten’s Balerante village and helped themselves to both ripe and unripe crops of corn, cassava and various vegetables and fruits.

Since the Merapi eruptions in 2010 that destroyed much of their natural habitat and with it their food supply, the long-tailed macaques have taken to invading smallholdings in large numbers in search of nutrition.

Sukono, the Balerante village chief, said many farmers had grown frustrated and were trying to find ways to deal with the problem without harming the animals.

One plan they came up with involved planting several fruit trees in the forest to provide food for the monkeys and reduce the raids on the farms.

“But we abandoned the plan because we were worried we would be violating the law, since the forest falls inside the Mount Merapi National Park zone, which is off-limits to cultivating and logging. So instead, we are left using sticks to chase the monkeys away,” Sukono said.

Another method that the village considered was installing nets over each plot to prevent the monkeys from getting at the crops. But the hilly ground of the village would make it too difficult and costly to apply, Sukono said.

Bambang Haryono, the head of Kemalang subdistrict, which includes Balerante, said the marauding monkeys had also targeted four other villages — Tangkil, Sidorejo, Tegalmulyo and Kemalang.

“Dozens of monkeys come and go, but we still have no solution. We have no idea how much money we are losing,” he said.

Novianto Bambang, the Forestry Ministry’s conservation director, told the Jakarta Globe that planting hardwood fruit trees in the national park was recommended as it would be a fair solution for both farmers and monkeys.

“Cultivating fruit plants in certain zones within the part is permitted, but not in restricted core and jungle zones. This will help to significantly curb the monkey raids as they will find food without having to leave the mount area,” he said.

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Monkey business: 4 animals that lost the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 mascot job by a proboscis

Lennard Gui The Star 23 Jan 14;

Crocodiles, bats, rats – Malaysia has plenty of endangered animals that would love a job as a mascot. But even in the tourism industry, looks matter. Sadly these beasts just aren’t as cute or cuddly as a monkey with a very big nose.

Being a mascot is hard work: You’ve got to be a good luck charm, cheerleader, goodwill ambassador, look great in a costume and sell a lot of merchandise. All creatures great and small are for the most part perfect for the job – though there have been strange pairings done in the name of marketing. Reptiles, amphibians and creepy crawlies have been called on to pedal products from beer to insurance. So turning to the Proboscis monkey to entice the world to Visit Malaysia in 2014 is a hip choice.

That said the long-nosed primate – nicknamed monyet Belanda by the Indonesians because of their apparent resemblance to their former Dutch colonisers – has its work cut out. It replaces the much-loved orangutan as the face of the Tourism Ministry’s efforts. But why this monkey and not something with a bigger plush toy possibility, like the Lar gibbon or Hose’s langur or Dusky leaf monkey?

The fact is there are only 6,000 Proboscis monkeys left in the jungles of Borneo, according to wildlife conservationists. And there are several weird, wonderful things about the primate that make it an interesting choice for a mascot – its unusually large nose, its webbed feet, the fact that males challenge each other for mates and leadership by comparing penis sizes.

Still, here are four other endangered beasts struggling to survive in Malaysia that may someday prove to be mascot-worthy.


Bats have a scary PR problem: They’re feared as bloodsucking monsters and terrifying receptacles of diseases. In isolated cases, that may be true, but that doesn’t lessen their importance to ecology. Several bat species endemic to Malaysia are threatened, but the convex horseshoe bat – the least pretty of the lot – is close to extinction in the wild. These bats, with faces that look like they’ve been stepped on by horses, live in large colonies in dark caves and hollow trees. When they come flying out at suppertime, it’s the stuff of nightmares – except they’re only interested in sipping on some bugs. Sadly, four horseshoe bat species were linked to an outbreak of a SARS-like virus in China in 2005. Not the Convex, but the damage was done.


Not much is known about the Tomistoma – also known as the Malayan gharial – a freshwater croc with a distinct long and thin snout. It was once thought that its diet consisted of fish and small vertebrates, but evidence now shows that the beast will eat fruit bats, water birds, macaques and the Proboscis monkey. On occasion, it will munch on a fisherman: In 2008, a female Tomistoma swallowed one in central Kalimantan and his remains were found in her stomach. Despite its elusive nature, the croc is as an endangered species with fewer than 2,500 adults left in the remote wetlands of Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. Hunting, logging, agriculture and an irrational fear of this creature continue to whittle down its number.


You’d think rats – ugh, these vermin could survive a nuclear war. Maybe so, but some of them can’t survive humans and they’re being slowly wiped out. Good you’d say – and you’d be wrong. Wildlife rodents, like bats, play a big part in the biology of jungles. For example, the endangered summit rat, found only in Malaysia, has a mutualistic relationship with a species of giant pitcher plants: It deposits its fertilising poop into the plant’s traps while feeding on its nectar. And the mountain spiny rat, also a Malaysian species, lives in the upper mountain block of Sabah where it snacks on roots, fruits and insects. Both species avoid any contact with people or our food. Unfortunately, you can’t say rat without thinking of the filthy sewer kind, which is truly a reservoir of parasites.


Don’t be fooled by the shrew. It looks like a long-nosed mouse, but this shy little creature isn’t a rodent. In fact it’s related to moles. There are several threatened species in Malaysia, including the critically endangered black shrew. It was discovered on Mount Kinabalu and is the teeniest of its kind. Like moles, shrews have awful eyesight but excellent hearing and sense of smell. They forage for seeds, insects, nuts and worms, but they only have one set of teeth their entire life, so eating gets harder as they get older. Fun fact: the black shrew travels by caravanning – moving in a single file and holding the tail of the shrew in front with its teeth. Sadly, no one knows how many are left in the wild because you don’t see them around much anymore.

Additional reporting by Olivia Lee

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Super typhoon victims flee again as rains flood southern Philippines

Erik de Castro PlaneArk 22 Jan 14;

Emergency workers evacuated thousands of people across the southern Philippines on Tuesday, including many already made homeless by a typhoon in November, after three days of rain flooded towns and farmland.

Hundreds of survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall, were forced to flee by tropical depression "Agaton" after emergency shelters were damaged or destroyed on the eastern central island of Samar.

Tents collapsed under the weight of the rain and emergency plastic sheets have been torn away, humanitarian agency Oxfam said.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year with Haiyan slamming into central islands on November 8, killing more than 6,100 and wiping out entire coastal communities in Leyte and Samar.

More than 200,000 people have been taken to shelters over the last three days as flood waters rose, but hundreds were still marooned on the roofs of their houses on Tuesday, said Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Del Rosario said 42 people had been killed, 65 had been injured and damage to property and farms had reached 367 million pesos ($8.13 million).

"Our troops are trying to reach them and bring them to safer ground," del Rosario said.

Nenita Matuda, 45, and her children perched on their neighbors' roof as she watched the rampaging waters outside Butuan City in the north of Mindanao island.

"Thank God we are safe but we just lost our house," she told Reuters as she wiped tears from her eyes.

A state of calamity has been declared in Agusan del Norte and 15 other towns in the Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur areas of Mindanao even as weather bureau lifted alert levels as the storm weakened. ($1 = 45 pesos)

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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